Sunday, August 21, 2011

Chicago Edition/Best Brunch in My Life!

Recently, I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago with my husband. He was working for most of the trip, so I took advantage of my time alone and checked out some new (to me) eats. My first stop on the mini-culinary tour was a small, off-the-tourist-path place, called Jam. Jam is located in Chicago's West Town, on N. Damen Avenue, which is a hub of design-oriented shops. (Check out Design Sponge's Chicago guide for shop recommendations here.)

My rule for new places, is that I must try the weirdest thing on the menu that still sounds yummy. At Jam, I had a hard time deciding, as they offer Malted Custard French Toast! However, I decided that was not the most unusual thing on the menu and I went for the Lemon Cured Whitefish Quiche. I am not kidding when I say this was the best brunch item I have ever tasted! The quiche was built in terrine like layers, with the creamy egg on the bottom, whitefish ceviche in the center, and another layer of egg on top. The brightness of the lemon combined with the creamy egg and buttery crust was amazing! Alongside the quiche was a fantastic panzanella salad of bagel chips, more whitefish, pickled pearl onions and fried capers. I wanted to ask for another order to go for my hotel room, and another to take back with me on the plane. It was that good! And it didn't hurt that the little garden I dined in was super charming!

Next stop, Black Dog Gelato, also located on N. Damen, just a couple blocks down from Jam. It was a hot day and I needed something to cool off. I couldn't resist a sample of the bleu cheese-walnut-balsamic flavor, so creative and surprisingly tasty. In the end, I went for the cucumber-rose water alongside some cantaloupe gelato. The cucumber-rose water was light and refreshing, with that lovely, floral undertone. And the cantaloupe tasted as if they had frozen a whole cantaloupe and pureed it! Super fresh and fruity!

On my last day of the whirlwind trip, I wanted to stop by one of the local chef celebrity places. Grahamwich, is Graham Elliot's, whom you might recognize from Fox's Master Chef, sandwich shop. Again, I wanted to try something a little different. I'm a fan of a grilled cheese, but Chef Elliot's version sounded crazy! With Wisconsin Cheddar, Italian Proscuitto, Tomato Marmalade, Cheese Curds on a Pullman Loaf, it was a heart attack in a sandwich, but you will definitely die happy eating this grilled cheese. The tart tomato marmalade really came through and accented the salty proscuitto and creamy cheddar. The curds just added a bit more texture to the delicious, creamy ooziness.

I hope to share a Lavender Chai recipe from the yummy bakery that my friend took me to, and also, maybe he'll share the fantasticly creamy chocolate cupcake recipe he makes for them. It was incredible, and he told me that the secret is to strain the batter through a mesh sieve! Unbelievable! 

I had a wonderful time in Chi-town and I can't wait to get back up there and try the hundreds of places I missed. It's an incredible city for food, and there's never enough time to try them all!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Bacon Corn Chowder


With fresh summer corn almost disappearing for the season, I felt I should make some corn chowder. After tasting a version of this recipe in a Williams-Sonoma store, I wanted to give it a go. The sweet, creamy corn lends itself perfectly to pairing with salty, crunchy bacon!

Bacon Corn Chowder

1/2 Red Onion, Diced
6 Cloves of Garlic, Minced
4 Strips of Bacon
3 Large Ears of Un-Shucked Corn
6 New Potatoes
64 Ounces of Chicken Stock
1 Teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
3 Sprigs of Thyme
2 Cups of Milk
Salt and Pepper


Fry your bacon until crispy on medium-heat. Reserve the bacon strips and pour 2 tablespoons of bacon grease into a large stock pot or dutch oven. Turn the pot to medium heat and add your onions and garlic. Saute until the onions are translucent. Meanwhile, turn your oven to broil and place your ears of corn on the racks. Turn until the husks blacken a bit on all sides. This will steam the corn on the inside of the husk and add a smoky flavor. Remove the corn from the oven and discard the husks. Take a knife and cut the kernels from the cob. Add the potatoes, thyme, cayenne, stock, milk, cobs and kernels to your pot once the onions are translucent. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Remove the cobs and sprigs of thyme from the pot. In a blender or food processor, puree all of the potatoes with half of the soup mix. Stir the blended mix back into the soup pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Chop your reserved bacon into bits, pour the soup into bowls and sprinkle the bacon on top!